Climate change is certain and affects people and communities directly. After long days and nights of continuous negotiations that never seemed to come to an end, I was entirely fed up. My first day of Week 2 at COP 19 was tough and demoralizing. I heard from delegates of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) and LDCs (Least Developed Countries) speak about the lack of action to resolve the issues of their sinking states or of the floods and typhoons affecting them. These countries are paying for climate change in lives- the lives of citizens who did not contribute to climate change. This made me realize that COP 19 was not only about the negotiations. It was about inspiring people to act- the youth, women, and civil society need to act because our governments are not.
Due to the rising frustrations at the stadium about the negotiations, I decided to focus on attending side-events that spoke about gender equity, action, and youth involvement. Youth need to be inspired in order to really understand the greater issue of climate change. But that inspiration needs to be taken one step further, into perspiration. Action must be taken whether it is educating people about climate change or taking the initiative to combat it yourself. Climate change largely affects people living in vulnerable areas but climate change is the least of their worries when faced with poverty and malnutrition. This is why education and awareness is vital. Linking and making connections to climate change and how it can great impact lives directly and physically must be made aware especially to those living in vulnerable communities. This is when a bottom-up approach must follow. Rural and vulnerable communities must have a say in the decision-making process. By making this transfer of information interactive and creative, people can relate to it. Once the issues are fully understood, one would be more likely to act and do something about it.
Change in behaviour is needed rather than just talking and talking and hoping for change. Environmental issues are huge and complex and can seem overwhelming especially to youth who see these disastrous events on TV but do not understand why they are happening. We need to foster a mind-set in people by challenging current behaviour. Excuses are often put in place such as “being green is too expensive” or “I just do not have the time”. People simply seek convenience without realizing they are contributing to these issues. Thinking that one person’s actions do not make a difference is not true. You are just the beginning of a public action. Living a “green” life will inspire others to follow as you promote a public commitment. Behaviour change is hard work and without encouragement, it is tempting to revert to old habits. For some reason, it is imprinted in our minds that it is easier to do nothing than to do something. Yes, it is easy to get demotivated but make that pledge to yourself, monitor change, and celebrate success. It is important to focus on the solutions rather than the problems. We are constantly being bombarded with issues that seem too far-fetched for us to actually stop and doublethink it. By taking those small steps in life to live “green”, you are contributing to the greater good of the global society.
Simona, a youth representative from the EU, was the one of the most effective speakers to me. The sheer passion in her voice as a frustrated youth created a sense of emotion in the room. Her first words: “You are not listening to us!”. It is sad to see how action plan after action plan are being negotiated with no real outcome. How many more climatic disasters do we have to witness before real action is taken? Fundraising after a typhoon is just not enough. We need to work towards mitigating and eliminating the possibility for these disasters to occur again. She brought up the irony of how our age is known as the “most educated lifetime” but what are we learning? That it is okay to build oil pipelines and to extract finite resources? Improving our economy is not everything- there will be no economy if there is no environment left for us. Climate change is an economic issue. The financial cost of climate change will shake the economy to its core. The Minister of Nicaragua really put this into perspective when he said that for every $1 USD not being invested before 2020 towards mitigation, $4.30 USD will need to be invested in degrade circumstances post-2020. It seems like common sense yet these negotiations are still happening with developed countries refusing to change due to their utter ignorance for sustainable development.
This is why individuals must act for themselves; small steps at the local level to see a global impact. Patterns and behaviours need to change at the individual level in order to change at the institutional level. This is the biggest moment for opportunity and for change. So what will be your “green” movement?
Author: Sarah Jamal
Photo Credit: weheartit